Personal branding is a means of uniquely showcasing your talents and abilities to show who you are as a person as well as create a consistent self-presentation. It can consist of a full-fledged branding scheme, similar to a business, or be as simple as how you portray yourself online.
Quite frankly, personal branding is simply taking control of your reputation, both online and off. Whether you’ve actively attempted to create one or not, you already have a personal branding on the web. However, if you’re not controlling your personal brand, then you’re letting others do so for you.
Why is Personal Branding Important?
Personal branding is important because if you’re not controlling your reputation you are letting others affect your career and self-image. This can be dangerous. Potential employers and others are searching your name and social profiles online. According to those employers, 22% are looking for a reason not to hire you based on content from those platforms. They are searching for inappropriate photos or videos, discriminatory remarks or comments, criminal behavior or past, alcohol or drug use, and more. Even things such as an unbecoming screen name or username can put you at risk. It doesn’t stop after your initial employment either; employers are often monitoring their employees even after they are hired.
A professional, personal branding can make you appear more authoritative in your field as well. As you begin to provide value for others, people will begin to associate your personal branding with you and come to you for your services or products. We’ll dive deeper into this further down.
Reflections on My Personal Branding
I first set out to create a personal branding when I was a senior in college at Centenary College of Louisiana for my Senior Seminar Class. It was the first time I had actually thought about branding myself and what that really meant. While I majored in Communication: New Media, I also minored in Computer Science and I wanted my branding to reflect this distinct combination. I could design it and then build it. And that’s exactly what I did!
I started thinking about skills I could offer to employers that I wanted to highlight. I began by making a list. As I did, I noticed several skills could be grouped together under a larger umbrella group. I quickly realized I simply wanted to focus on my two major skills: graphic design and computer science. Then, I began thinking of words or ideas that I thought about when I contemplated those ideas. I wrote down anything that came to mind. The idea for my first personal branding was quickly beginning to take shape.
Graphic designers often use design software such as Photoshop, Illustrator, or InDesign. Each of these programs as guides that aid you in designing your pieces or signal to the printer where to cut your work. I incorporated these guides into part of my new branding to showcase the graphic design side of my background.
Next, I had to decide how to incorporate my computer science experience. Being mostly a front-end developer, I instantly went to HTML and CSS, programming languages used to build websites. The code for header text is an ‘h’ inside of carrots: < and >. Not only did this help demonstrate my computer science background, but my middle initial also happens to start with an ‘h.’ It was perfect!
I took my branding and included it everywhere! Remember, this is personal branding; therefore, it should be on all of your personal social media accounts in some regard as well. I suggest not creating a separate “business” page for your work. There’s brand equity in yourself and your face already through your friends and family. Use this to your advantage (notice every profile picture below is the same; make yourself easily recognizable). Anywhere you use your new branding be sure to include the logo, your name, and your face, minimum. Start by using your personal branding to become the expert in your field for this group first. Afterward, you can use what you’ve learned to increase awareness of your brand and grow your business. One of the biggest mistakes I see new business owners make is not taking advantage of this network you already have. When you become the go-to person for this network, word-of-mouth often takes care of the rest.
While this branding served me well for quite a while (it aided me in receiving my first salaried job offer from KSLA News Channel 12), after a couple of years or so I realized it was time for a more mature branding that matched my newer objectives.
During my time at KSLA News Channel 12, I was able to acquire additional marketing skills that I didn’t previously have and I wanted to find a way to showcase those. In doing so, I wanted to become the local, authoritative figure for marketing and social media in our local area. I wanted to create a more mature branding that reflected where I am today and begin to show value to others (hence, we now have this blog).
I began to really ponder what value I had for business owners in my area. As the market shifts towards the next group of large consumers: millennials, it began to make sense. If you’re trying to reach millennials, then what better person to help you do so than… a millennial. And the alliteration: The Millennial Marketer, was born. This new branding has not only changed my visual branding but it also has helped me in other ways as well.
The branding carries over into my current job as a designer and digital specialist at Advocate Advertising Group as well. I’m actually wearing an Advocate Group shirt in my main branding image. The color scheme of my new personal branding ties into this as well. This helps closely align me with my current employer and allow them to receive the value of my branding equity as well. Personal branding isn’t just for when you’re looking for a job interview! It’s in the best interest of my employer to have the most authoritative person in the field working for them.
My new personal branding also shifted the direction of my website, www.paulsavagejr.com. Previously, the site was more like an online resume for myself. I decided I wanted this site to provide more value for others, whether that be students, business owners, or anyone who could benefit from my content. I converted the website to a blog and began posting relevant, high-quality content that would help assist others starting a business. This was an important step as it showed I didn’t just talk the talk, I could walk the walk. By providing value, they not only thought of me first when they had a marketing question or needed a design, but it backed up my claims of what I said I could do. I became the go-to person. It isn’t unusual for me to receive Facebook messages requesting marketing or design services. I quite often get tagged in posts asking for a graphic designer or help with a marketing question by a friend on a post outside of my network, even.
How to Brand Yourself
Start by determining what skills you’d like to highlight and what value you have for your current or future employer. You may start by making a list of skills you have, similar to what I did or you may find an alternative method that works better for you. Do whatever gets you thinking about your strengths. Then, make a list of things or ideas that come to mind for each skill. Use these ideas to begin sketching up different logo marks for your personal branding. Through these different sketches, you’ll eventually arrive at the one that best matches your current objectives.
Second, start cleansing your online reputation from anything in your past that may affect your future employment or reputation. I still do this to this day; none of us are perfect. One of the best ways I’ve found to do this is Facebook’s “On this Day” feature. Almost every day Facebook pops up a notification asking to show you memories that occurred on this day since you created your Facebook profile. Use this to your advantage. It takes just a couple of seconds to click the notification, scroll through your memories, and delete any inappropriate ones. It’s quick, easy, and Facebook even (sort of) reminds you.
Remember, when you scroll through your memories you are looking for anything that can affect your reputation or employment. This could include unprofessional behavior such as drinking alcohol or drug use. Obviously, no criminal behavior should be on your accounts as well. You also should check for any types of unprofessional communication. If you noticed a spelling or grammar mistake, take a minute to fix it. Any comments or posts that include sexually explicit content, polarizing views related to politics, religion, race, or sexual orientation, or include bullying/violence should be deleted too.
Next, create a website. Having a Facebook page just isn’t enough. In the beginning, even a simple website made with Squarespace or Wix is better than nothing. A website is an excellent way to professionally showcase your work, skills, and value. It’s also content that you can control in search results which is a huge part of your personal branding. You may also choose WordPress for its flexibility and customization options. 31% of the websites on the internet are built using this platform. It should be noted that with more customizable comes a steeper learning curve, in most cases. Therefore, this may be an option you choose later on down the line. There are plenty of WordPress tutorials on YouTube to help you get started.
If you choose WordPress as your option, you’ll also need to have hosting for your site. This is where the files are stored until someone types in your website address or URL and they are displayed to the user. There are several hosting companies out there such as GoDaddy or HostGator. I personally recommend Siteground. There exceptional hosting means your site is fast (which can affect your SEO ranking on Google) and their customer support is top notch. Also, they provide free SSL certificates for all domains. If you sign up using my affiliate link I will receive a small compensation that would be greatly appreciated. Click here to get started. Please note that I don’t recommend any products that I don’t use myself. This site you are currently on is proudly hosted with Siteground.
Once you get a website up, you’ll want to connect it to a domain. Your domain should match your preferred name and have a .com extension, if possible. Be sure it matches the name that you use to introduce yourself. Therefore, if you introduce yourself as Matt instead of Matthew I would suggest buying the domain www.mattminney.com instead of www.matthewminney.com. It will be important to own variations of your name as you move forward, but this will get you started in the beginning. If the .com extension of your name is taken you might try other options such as .pro or .net.
Finally, Google yourself. Google your name and see what results show up. This is important because this means these same results will show up for a potential employer who Googles your name. And they will! You want to ensure that your social profiles and website are among the first results. Social media sites have a higher authority with Google than almost anything else, meaning they will almost always show up first. This is why it’s imperative that you keep your accounts professional. If your website isn’t ranking, you may work with a marketing professional to update the SEO or search engine optimizations made on your website. There are also several tools online that can help with cleaning up your online reputation as well. I’ve created a short list of resources after this article.
Final Food For Thought
Helpful Tools & Resources
BrandYourself – Reputation Report
This is a great tool to help you scour your social media accounts and audit search engine results for your name. The software even uses artificial intelligence to look for things such as alcohol bottles, etc. in your social media posts.
Facebook “On this Day” Feature
Check this handy guide on how the feature works from Facebook themselves. The feature is a great way to begin pruning your inappropriate social media posts on the platform.
Siteground: Domains & Web Hosting
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Please note that there are affiliate links in this article. This means that I may receive a small compensation should you choose to register for the service or buy the product. I never affiliate with products that I don’t use myself and don’t 100% believe in.